Culture Representation: Taking place in Greece, England and Italy, the dramatic film “The Lost Daughter” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A British woman, who works as a comparative Italian literature professor, goes on vacation in Greece, where she has flashbacks of her troubled background as a young mother, after she encounters a young mother from a boisterous Italian American family who are staying in the same vacation villa spot.
Culture Audience: “The Lost Daughter” will appeal primarily to fans of star Olivia Colman and expertly acted psychological dramas.
“The Lost Daughter” upends the stereotype that mothers depicted in movies are supposed to think that parenthood is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Much of the discontent in the movie has to do with doubts and insecurities that mothers have when they find out that motherhood doesn’t make them as happy as they were taught to believe it would. The movie might start off looking like a mystery thriller, but it’s really a psychological drama that takes viewers inside the restless and uneasy mind of woman during a tension-filled vacation and how she affects other people around her. Olivia Colman anchors the movie with a memorable and intriguing performance.
“The Lost Daughter” is the feature-film directorial debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who wrote the adapted screenplay, which is based on Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel of the same name. It’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, but the movie changes the nationalities of the main characters and the coastal vacation setting from Italy to Greece. “The Lost Daughter” benefits from cinematic elements (such as production design and music) that very much enhance the mood and emotions conveyed in the story. Just like in the book, the movie centers on a vacation that is fraught with some psychological torment and guilt over motherhood issues.
In “The Lost Daughter,” Colman portrays Leda Caruso, a 48-year-old university professor of comparative Italian literature. Leda is originally from England: She grew up in Leeds and currently lives in Cambridge. Leda is on vacation in Greece, where she is renting a villa during this trip. (In “The Lost Daughter” book, Leda is an Italian native who is a university professor of English and vacationing in Italy.)
Leda is divorced with two adult daughters: 25-year-old Bianca and 23-year-old Martha, who are not seen in the movie but whose voices can be heard when they talk to Leda on the phone. Ellie James is the voice of the adult Bianca, while Isabelle Della-Porta is the voice of the adult Martha. At different points in the movie, Leda has flashbacks to when her daughters were underage children. In these flashbacks, Jessie Buckley plays young Leda, Robyn Elwell plays Bianca at approximately 7 or 8 years old, and Ellie Mae Blake plays Martha at about 5 or 6 years old.
Leda is looking forward to spending some quiet and relaxing time alone on this vacation. Two of the first people she meets are Lyle (played by Ed Harris), the middle-aged caretaker of the villa where’s staying, and Will (played by Paul Mescal), an Irish college business student who works at the resort during the summer as a lifeguard and general handyman. Lyle and Will are both friendly and accommodating. Lyle mentions that he’s been the villa’s caretaker for the past 30 years.
Leda’s plans for a tranquil holiday become disrupted when her vacation becomes anything but quiet and relaxing. Not long after Leda finds a space on a beach to settle down and get some sun, a large and very loud Italian American family shows up and interrupts Leda’s peace and quiet. There are about 12 to 15 people in this group of raucous newcomers.
Two of them are a married couple named Callie (played by Dagmara Dominczyk) and Vassili (played by Panos Koronis), who ask Leda to move out of her spot on the beach to make room for some people in the group. Leda firmly says no. In response, a young man in the group calls Leda a derogatory and sexist name that rhymes with “punt.” Callie and Vassili walk away, visibly annoyed with Leda.
Needless to say, Leda and this family do not make a good impression on each other. From where Leda sits on the beach, she observes this family. Leda notices a strikingly good-looking couple who’s part of the group: They are Callie’s younger sister Nina (played by Dakota Johnson) and Nina’s husband Toni (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who seem to have a passionate marriage, based on their public displays of affection. Nina and Toni have a daughter with them named Elena (played by Athena Martin Anderson), who’s about 5 years old.
Shortly after the awkward encounter with Leda, Callie approaches Leda again on the beach. This time, it’s to make an apology for the family being so rude. Callie brings a piece of cake as a peace offering, and she asks Leda about herself. Leda doesn’t really seem interested in making friends with anyone on this trip, but she reluctantly answers the questions, such as where she’s from and what she does for a living.
During this conversation, Callie is talkative and friendly. Callie says her family is from New York City, but they have other family members who’ve lived in this part of Greece for “300 years.” She mentions that she’s 42 years old and seven months pregnant with her first child, which the family already knows will be a girl. This talk abut motherhood makes Leda visibly uncomfortable. Leda comments to Callie: “Children are a crushing responsibility.”
During her observation of this family on the beach, Leda notices that Elena shows a strong attachment to a girl doll that Elena carries around. Elena also shows signs of possibly disturbed behavior because she bites the doll in an unusually aggressive manner. The doll and what happens next to Elena end up being the catalyst for most of what triggers Leda’s memories and actions during this trip.
While the family’s adults are partying on the beach, Elena suddenly goes missing. A frantic search ensues that takes a few hours, but Leda ends up finding Elena by herself in a wooded area near the beach. When Leda brings Elena back to her family, Leda is treated like a hero. But deep inside, Leda doesn’t feel like a hero.
That’s because Elena’s disappearance reignites a painful memory of when Leda’s elder daughter Bianca went missing on a beach when Bianca was about the same age as Elena. This memory and other things that happened in Leda’s past are presented as flashbacks in the movie. And that’s when it’s revealed that Leda didn’t really enjoy being a mother very much.
Slowly but surely, viewers find out how Leda was as a mother to two young children; what led to the demise of Leda’s marriage to her husband Joe (played by Jack Farthing); and what happened when a young Leda was accepted into grad school at a university in Italy. Gyllenhaal’s real-life husband Peter Sarsgaard has a supporting role as Professor Hardy, a charismatic professor of an Italian literature class that Leda took when she was in grad school.
Colman gives a compelling performance as Leda, who seems brittle on the outside but has emotional vulnerabilities on the inside. Elena’s doll and what happens to it are symbolic of clinging to youthful memories. As Leda’s memories from the past come flooding back, she also becomes increasingly caught up in what’s going in Nina’s life and the distress that’s caused when Elena’s doll goes missing.
At one point, Will warns Leda that Nina and her family are “bad people.” How dangerous are they? Leda finds out at least one big secret about Nina, who remains somewhat of a mystery throughout the entire movie. Buckley’s portrayal of a young Leda gives a necessary emotional depth to the older Leda, who wants to keep her inner turmoil hidden from the world.
“The Lost Daughter” is best enjoyed by audiences if people know from the beginning that this isn’t a movie filled with big action scenes or with any obvious villains. It’s a searing portrait of how one woman reflects on how she handled motherhood and how her personal encounters with another mother often feels like an eerie and upsetting reminder of the past. The title of the movie refers to a child who goes missing in two separate parts of the story, but the overall emotional arc is how a woman finds parts of herself that she wants to lose or forget.
Netflix released “The Lost Daughter” in select U.S. cinemas on December 17, 2021. The movie premieres on Netflix on December 31, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place during a few days in December 1991, primarily in Sandringham, England, the dramatic film “Spencer” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy royalty.
Culture Clash: Feeling trapped in a crumbling marriage, Princess Diana of Wales spends a restless few days at a Christmas holiday family gathering, where she tries to assert her independence in a family that wants to control her.
Culture Audience: “Spencer” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in stories about Princess Diana and/or people who are fans of Kristen Stewart, who gives a riveting performance.
“Spencer” is more of a fever-dream drama than a precise biographical portrait of the late Princess Diana of Wales, formerly known as Diana Spencer. In the title role, Kristen Stewart portrays Diana at a low point in the troubled princess’ life, but Stewart’s performance is the high point of this frequently repetitive and sometimes far-fetched film. Directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Steven Knight, “Spencer” is intent on portraying Diana as a tortured and wounded soul instead of making her a well-rounded, complicated person with other interests besides her children and her bad marriage. (The movie basically ignores Diana’s work as a humanitarian/philanthropist.) This fixation on Diana’s misery serves Stewart’s performance well, but it does somewhat of a disservice to the real Diana.
The first sign that “Spencer” veers into fantasy (which it does more often than some viewers might care for) is in the prologue, which labels the movie as “A Fable From a True Tragedy.” The movie’s fictional aspect continues in the opening scene, where Diana is seen driving by herself in her Porsche in the English countryside. It’s close to Christmas in 1991, and she’s on her way to a family gathering at Sandringham Estate, which is owned by her mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II. This scene is extremely unrealistic because Diana has no bodyguards or other security personnel nearby. And she’s not being followed by paparazzi, which would surely happen in real life, since it would be nearly impossible in those days for Diana to drive somewhere by herself undisguised without the media finding out.
The movie has an additional contrivance of Diana getting lost on the way to the estate. She tries to find her way by reading a map. “Where the fuck am I?” she mutters while looking in a confused manner at the map. This scene in the movie tries to make Diana look like she’s just a regular upper-class woman on her way to her family’s country estate for the Christmas holidays. Except Diana was no ordinary upper-class woman. At the time, she was royalty and probably the most famous woman in the world.
While she has gotten lost on the way to Sandringham Estate, Diana casually walks into a diner and asks “Where am I?,” as shocked customers gawk at her in silence. In reality, people would be approaching her and would quickly surround her, because she was so beloved by people around the world. Because Diana has presumably been to this estate many times before, it makes her look very unobservant (at best) or not very intelligent (at worst) that she could get lost on the way to a place she’s been to several times in her life.
Sandringham Estate is near where Diana grew up, so the movie makes a point of showing Diana pensive and wistful about her childhood. By all accounts, she had an unhappy childhood, due to her parents’ bitter divorce, although that family history is glossed-over/ignored in “Spencer.” The movie’s childhood flashbacks of Diana are brief and don’t have much bearing on the overall story. Kimia Schmidt portrays Diana at 9 years old, Greta Bücker portrays Diana as a teenager, and Henry Castello portrays Diana’s younger brother Charles Spencer when he was 9 years old.
While Diana gets lost driving, she comes across an open garden field that’s nearly deserted except for a scarecrow that she remembers being there, ever since she was a child. She walks through the field in her dress suit and high heels, and she takes the red jacket that the scarecrow is wearing. It’s at this point that you just know it won’t be the last time that Diana is seen with this scarecrow in the movie.
Diana sees royal head chef Darren McGrady (played by Sean Harris), who’s in this field too in that odd/contrived way in which movie characters show up in a scene without any explanation. He’s conveniently there to give Diana directions when she tells Darren that she’s lost. Darren asks Diana how on earth she was able to travel there by herself, without any security personnel, as required by royal protocol. Diana’s glib response is that she just walked out of the room where she was at, and she impulsively drove to the estate without telling anyone and without anyone else finding out.
Diana claims that she was able to make this getaway without her bodyguards noticing. We all know that wouldn’t really happen at this point in her life. Considering that she died in a 1997 car crash while being chased by paparazzi, it requires a a huge suspension of disbelief that Diana could just slip away unnoticed, by driving alone in a car somewhere while undisguised.
With this opening scene, “Spencer” tries a little too hard to push the improbable narrative that Diana could easily slip in and out of anonymity, undisguised, whenever she wanted. It’s the “whenever she wanted” part that’s the most incredulous because people with enough knowledge of the British Royal Family know how carefully the family’s public appearances are planned. It’s been well-documented how someone on Diana’s level of royal fame had to get strict approval and clearances to go out in public.
“Spencer” has other unrealistic scenes showing Diana casually going out in public, whenever she felt like it, without any security personnel. (For example, there’s a scene where she takes her sons to Kentucky Fried Chicken, where they order a meal at a drive-through window.) The concept that Diana could shed her fame and be anonymous when she wanted is a direct contradiction to the other narrative pushed by the movie: Diana lived her life like a hunted animal who was always under scrutiny by the media and controlled by the British Royal Family. It’s this more “tortured” narrative where Stewart gets to showcase her acting talent the most as Diana.
One of the more visually striking scenes in “Diana” is early in the movie, which shows a military-like procession of trucks and vans driving to the Sandringham Estate. Items in crates are being transported and guarded in these trucks and vans with the importance of top-secret weapons. What could possibly be in these crates? It turns out that the cargo consists of lobster and other seafood for the estate’s kitchen that will be preparing the royal family’s Christmas holiday meals.
The point that’s made is as subtle as a 21-gun salute. Viewers are supposed to notice the contrast between the arrival of Diana (alone and with no bodyguards) with the arrival of the seafood (which has more security escorts than most celebrities have), to show that the British Royal Family seems to care more about their food being protected than about Diana being protected on the way to the estate. Overseeing the kitchen is Chef McGrady, who leads his crew like a no-nonsense military commander.
Diana arrives late to this family gathering. The first person to greet her at the estate is Major Alistar Gregory (played by Timothy Spall), a longtime friend of the royal family, and he mentions it’s the first time he’s on royal duty at this gathering. The first thing that Diana has to do when she arrives is weigh herself on a large weighing scale placed in the foyer, and her weight is announced aloud. This weighing ritual has been a longtime royal tradition for people who arrive at the estate. When Diana gripes about it, Major Gregory replies sternly, “No one is above tradition.”
This forced weighing serves as a symbol of Diana’s insecurities over her weight. At the time, her bulima was a secret from the public. She later revealed this secret in Andrew Morton’s tell-all bombshell 1992 book “Diana: Her True Story In Her Own Words.” In “Spencer,” Diana’s bulima becomes a subplot, as there are multiple scenes of her vomiting in toilets and sneaking into the royal pantry for binge eating.
Chef McGrady knows about Diana’s eating disorder and discreetly avoids talking about it with her. Diana’s husband Prince Charles (played by Jack Farthing) isn’t as delicate about Diana’s feelings. Through clenched teeth and a condescending, whispered voice over the dinner table, Charles scolds Diana about her habit of getting up during a meal to vomit. Charles tells Diana that the kitchen staff went through a great deal of trouble to prepare the meal and the least she could do is show some respect and “not regurgitate the cooks’ hard work before the church bells ring.”
The world now knows that at this pont in Diana’s life in 1991, her marriage to Charles was close to a permanent collapse. (Charles and Diana announced their separation in December 1992, and they officially divorced in 1996.) However, Charles and Diana were still putting up a united front to the public in 1991. It was a façade that was taking a toll on Diana’s self-esteem and mental health.
Charles’ ongoing extramarital affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles (played by Emma Darwall-Smith), a woman he dated before he met Diana, is depicted in the movie as some furtive and catty glances that Diana and Camilla exchange when Camilla is nearby at royal events. (Charles would later marry Camilla in 2005. “Spencer” stays focused primarily on a few days in Diana’s life in 1991.) Diana’s infidelities, which she later publicly admitted, are briefly mentioned but not shown in this movie, because it’s intent on making Charles the villain and Diana the victim.
The movie also makes a big to-do about Diana being upset over discovering that Charles gave identical pearl necklaces to Diana and Camilla. There’s a melodramatic scene where Diana literally rips the necklace off of her neck and does something with the pearls (which won’t be revealed here) that is supposed to be shocking to viewers. Therefore, not only does “Spencer” have a royal woman literally clutching her pearls in distress, but there’s also an added horror element that the movie throws in too.
And speaking of horror-inspired elements, get used to seeing a ghost in this movie: Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, who was beheaded in 1536 for treason and other charges. Anne Boleyn (played by Amy Manson) appears as a vision to Diana several times and speaks out loud. Diana, who is a distant relative of Anne Boleyn, says that she can relate to her because of being unhappily married to a British royal. The beginning of the film shows Diana reading the book “Anne Boleyn: Life and Death of a Martyr,” which seems to fuel Diana’s hallucinations of seeing Anne.
The only joy depicted in Diana’s life comes from her two sons: William (played by Jack Nielen) and Harry (played by Freddie Spry), who were 9 and 7 years old, respectively, at the time this story takes place. Some of the best scenes in the movie are showing Diana spending time alone with William and Harry. It’s in these scenes that she shows her playful, protective and loving side to her personality.
But in between, the movie wallows in more angst and unhappiness. Diana is an “outsider” in the British Royal Family. And this pariah status is depicted in various ways.
For example, when she first arrives at the estate, Diana complains that the indoor temperature is too cold. She’s annoyed that the royal family, instead of allowing her request to turn on the indoor heating, expects people to just wear heavier jackets and use more blankets inside. It’s an indication of how Diana has so little control/respect/power in the family that she can’t convince them to turn on the heat in their own home.
Diana is also late for the family’s Christmas portrait. This tardiness could be her subconscious way of rebelling or her way of showing that she wanted to delay spending time with certain members of the family as much as possible. In “Spencer,” Charles is Diana’s main antagonist.
The other members of the British Royal Family are depicted as emotionally distant from Diana, and they don’t have much to say to her. Stella Gonet is Queen Elizabeth II, Richard Sammel is Prince Philip, Lore Stefanek is the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Berrington is Princess Anne, Niklas Kohrt is Prince Andrew, and Olga Hellsing is Sarah Ferguson. In real life, Diana and Sarah were close friends when they were married to brothers Prince Charles and Prince Andrew. However, this friendship between Diana and Sarah is completely ignored in “Spencer,” to serve the movie’s agenda of making it look like Diana was completely friendless and isolated.
Later in the movie, the contrast is shown between how Charles (who spent his entire life in the public eye) and Diana (who became famous at age 19 in 1981, when she and Charles got engaged and married within a seven-month period) are handling the media scrunity. Charles is resigned and jaded when he explains to her how he deals with it all: “There are two of you and two of me: The real one and the one they take pictures of.”
Because the rest of the adult royals have an aloof attitude toward Diana, the movie shows her confiding more with the royal servants than with members of the royal family. The staffer whom Diana bonds with the most is royal dresser Maggie (played by Sally Hawkins), an amiable worker who has immense admiration of Diana. As an example of how acutely aware Diana is of being in a royal building that goes back several generations, she tells Maggie, “The dust in this house suddenly contains everyone who’s ever stayed in it.”
But since the movie makes it look like the royal family didn’t want Diana to get close to any of “the help,” Maggie is abruptly sent away and transferred to work somewhere else. Diana is disappointed and upset, because Maggie was her closest confidante at the estate, and because the decision to send Maggie away was made without Diana’s knowledge or input. Diana’s efforts to get Maggie re-instated at Sandringham Estate just lead to more examples of Diana feeling ignored and disrespected by the royal powers that be. Maggie and Diana later see each other again in a brief reunion, where Maggie makes a personal confession to Diana.
Maggie is replaced by a dresser named Angela (played by Laura Benson), who isn’t as warm and friendly as Maggie. Angela tactfully reminds Diana not to get undressed with the room curtains open, because someone could take photos and sell them to the tabloids. Apparently, Diana got undressed with the curtains open during her visit at the estate, the royal family found out about it, and passed the word down to Angela to tell Diana not to do it again. The movie uses it as an example of why Diana felt paranoid that the other members of the royal family were spying on her.
Even though Stewart gives one of the best portrayals of Princess Diana that’s been on screen, Stewart’s performance is very self-conscious and very self-aware. You never forget the entire time that she’s acting, compared to a performance where an actor truly disappears into the role of a real-life person and you feel like you’re watching a documentary instead of a scripted drama. It’s a performance where you can tell Stewart was thinking while filming this movie: “I hope I get an Academy Award and other awards for this performance.”
Despite this type of very self-conscious acting, Stewart portrays the real Diana’s mannerisms and speech patterns with uncanny accuracy. It’s especially true in the way that she walks in public when many cameras are present. She slightly hunches over with her head slightly bowed, while looking up with a smile but with sad eyes that convey her true feelings. Her body language shows that she’s not completely relaxed. Stewart went through her own paparazzi/tabloid hell during the height of her “Twilight” movie fame from 2008 to 2012 (although it wasn’t nearly as intense as what Diana went through), so it’s easy to see how Stewart could draw from her own personal experiences in this exceptional portrayal of Diana.
In real life, Stewart is 5’5″, while Diana was 5’10″—Diana’s tall female height was one of her more striking physical characteristics. In “Spencer,” thanks to the artistic cinematography of Claire Mathon, this height discrepancy is cleverly disguised by filming Stewart with many closeups, upward angles (to make her look taller), and in cutaway shots when she has a scene with an actor who would have been close to the real Diana’s height.
In addition to the above-average cinematography and noteworthy acting from Stewart, “Spencer” has outstanding costume design from Jacqueline Durran and a haunting but effective musical score from Jonny Greenwood. And any movies about the British Royal Family usually have to meet high standards for production design. Fortunately, “Spencer” production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas and the rest of the team met those high standards.
“Spencer” takes risks, but not all of them pay off in the way that the filmmakers perhaps intended. It can certainly be appreciated that the filmmakers didn’t want to do a standard Princess Diana biopic, which has already been done multiple times, usually with middling results. And her personal problems should not be ignored when telling any aspect of Diana’s adult life and her doomed marriage to Prince Charles.
However, leaning into a story arc that involves Diana hallucinating about the ghost of Anne Boleyn, among other things, somewhat backfires because it reinforces a stereotype that Diana had a severe mental illness. In real life, Diana said the stigma of mental illness was a negative stereotype that was used against her. One of Diana’s public complaints about the British Royal Family was they tried to make her look “crazy” to the point where she might be considered “unfit” to carry out royal duties.
Yes, Diana admitted to being suicidal at one point in her life, but it seems a bit irresponsible for filmmakers to make a gigantic leap from Diana being depressed to being so delusional that she’s seeing a ghost. This filmmaking choice is a bit off-putting because it seems like it was done for melodrama’s sake, not with a great deal of compassion. If not for Stewart portraying Diana with humanity and as a person trying to stay dignified in degrading situations, “Spencer” would be a hollow exercise in filmmakers using Diana’s fame to do an exploitative movie about her private pain.
Neon will release “Spencer” in U.S. cinemas on November 5, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Italy, the romantic comedy “Love Wedding Repeat” has a predominantly white British cast of characters (with some representation of Asians and one black/biracial person) representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: At his sister’s wedding, a man tries to reconnect with a potential love interest and prevent a highly intoxicated uninvited guest from spoiling the wedding.
Culture Audience: “Love Wedding Repeat” will appeal mostly to people who have little or no expectations for a romantic comedy to be very romantic or very funny.
Imagine being at a wedding reception and being stuck at a table with mostly annoying people who say and do ridiculous things. That might give you an idea of what it’s like to watch “Love Wedding Repeat,” a very misguided attempt at being a romantic comedy. The movie (written and directed by Dean Craig) is based on the 2012 French film “Plan de Table,” which translates to “Table Plan” in English. “Plan de Table” was a flop with audiences and critics when it was released in France, so it’s kind of mind-boggling that the “Love Wedding Repeat” filmmakers wanted to do a remake of a flop. However, changing the setting to Italy, making it an English-language film with a mostly British cast, and altering some of the plot elements did not make “Love Wedding Repeat” an improvement on the original film.
“Love Wedding Repeat” is also split into two different storylines, with the same characters but with alternate endings. This split personality of the film ultimately falls flat, because it makes the first half of the film look like an even more of a time waster than the second half. The latter half is the one that’s supposed to have the “real” ending. The way that the movie transitions between the two storylines is clumsy at best. Penny Ryder, a Judi Dench sound-alike, does some brief voiceover narration playing the “oracle” of the movie, where she spouts some mystical-sounding mumbo jumbo about fate, destiny, and how one little action can have a big chain reaction on people’s lives.
In every movie with the word “wedding” in the title, there are two people in the story whom the audience is supposed to want to end up together. In “Love Wedding Repeat,” those two people are Jack (played by Sam Claflin) and Dina (played by Olivia Munn). At the beginning of the movie, it isn’t clear what Jack does for a living (he later tells Dina that he’s recently qualified to be a structural engineer), while Dina is an American journalist whose specialty is covering wars. They’re visiting Italy for some unknown reason and now have to go their separate ways back to their regular lives.
The movie begins with Jack and Dina having a starry-eyed romantic stroll in Italy in their last night together on their trip. Jack tells Dina, “This has been a pretty special weekend.” Dina replies, “You’re not as irritating as I thought you would be.” Dina is a friend of Jack’s younger sister Hayley, who apparently set them up on this blind date.
As he leans in to give a goodbye kiss to Dina, they’re suddenly interrupted by Jack’s former college classmate Greg (played by Alexander Forsyth), who literally comes out of nowhere to barge in between them and is completely oblivious that he’s ruined a romantic moment. The movie is filled with these types of unrealistic barge-ins where people randomly show up to cause uncomfortable situations.
Greg than proceeds to embarrass Jack by telling Dina that Jack used to have the nickname Mr. Wank in college because Jack was known for “wanking” (British slang for masturbating) a lot back then. Jack denies that he was the person with the nickname Mr. Wank, but based on how the scene is played, viewers are supposed to believe that Jack probably did have that nickname.
Meanwhile, Greg can’t take a hint that Jack and Dina want to be alone together (this movie is filled with socially clueless people), so he prattles on while Jack (who’s too spineless to end the conversation with Greg and get him to move along) watches with a frustrated expression on his face. Since Jack doesn’t have what it takes to get rid of Greg, Jack then makes the decision to say goodbye to Dina by giving her an uncomfortable handshake instead of a kiss. The disappointed look on Dina’s face shows that Jack had a chance to possibly continue their romantic connection, but he blew it.
The movie then fast forwards three years later. Jack is in Italy again, this time for the wedding of his sister Hayley (played by Eleanor Tomlinson), who is apparently marrying into a well-to-do Italian family, since the wedding is taking place at a large and beautiful estate. (The production design and cinematography are the best things about “Love Wedding Repeat.”)
Jack and Hayley’s parents are dead, so Jack will be the one to give away the bride. And wouldn’t you know that at this big wedding where there are hundreds of guests and numerous tables at the wedding reception, Jack will be seated at the same table as Dina, Jack’s ex-girlfriend Amanda (played by Freida Pinto) and Amanda’s current boyfriend Chaz (played by Allan Mustafa). It’s mentioned at some point in the movie that Jack and Amanda dated each other for two years after he and Dina first met each other in Italy, but the relationship between Jack and Amanda ended horribly because she was a difficult shrew. Jack describes Amanda as a “nightmare of a girlfriend.”
And apparently, Amanda hasn’t changed since she dated Jack. Amanda and Chaz are a bickering couple who are obviously mismatched. She’s cold-hearted, bossy, and shows a lot of contempt for Chaz, who is annoyed with her because he proposed to Amanda six months ago and she still hasn’t given him an answer. Chaz is so insecure that he’s fixated on comparing his penis size and sexual skills to Jack’s and other men’s, and Chaz constantly brags that he’s the best of them all. That’s essentially what his character is about for the entire movie. Meanwhile, it becomes apparent during the course of the film that Amanda still has some unresolved feelings for Jack.
Also seated at the same table are Jack’s close friend Bryan (played by Joel Fry), a high-strung, self-absorbed aspiring actor who wants to meet a famous Italian movie director who’s at the wedding; Rebecca (played by Aisling Bea), a tactless motormouth who has a crush on Bryan; and Sidney (played by Tim Key), a socially awkward car-insurance agent who’s desperate to give the impression that he’s not boring. There’s also a “surprise” uninvited guest who’s seated at the table: Marc (played by Jack Farthing), a former childhood classmate of Hayley’s who’s obsessively in love with her and very upset that she’s getting married to someone else.
Jack and Dina are very happy to see each other at the wedding. They’re both available—Dina recently broke up with a work colleague who cheated on her with several other women—but, of course, this wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without obstacles to keep this would-be couple apart. “Love Wedding Repeat” uses very flimsy plot devices to prevent Jack and Dina from spending a lot of time together at the wedding reception, even though they’re seated at the same table.
The main “obstacle” is that a very intoxicated Marc—who’s unexpectedly shown up at the wedding while high on cocaine, which he continues to snort throughout most of the movie—is determined to ruin the wedding by revealing a secret in order to humiliate Hayley and get her new husband to possibly break up with her. (It’s very easy to guess what the secret is.) Hayley panics when she sees Marc and demands that he leave, but he refuses.
Hayley’s new husband Roberto (played by Tiziano Caputo), another clueless person in the movie who can’t read body language and nonverbal signals, sees Hayley and Marc having a tense conversation together. Roberto is oblivious to the tension and instead goes over and assumes that Hayley is talking to an old friend.
Hayley tells Roberto that Marc was just about to leave because he showed up uninvited and there isn’t room for him at the wedding reception. But instead, Roberto insists that Marc stay because they can find room for him at a table. Of course, it happens to be the same table where Jack, Dina, Amanda, Chaz, Bryan, Rebecca and Sidney are seated.
But instead of getting security personnel or some other people to remove Marc from the premises, Hayley makes the dumb decision (as one does in stupid movies like this) to enlist Jack’s help by begging Jack to put a strong liquid sedative that she happens to have in her purse and secretly put the drug in Marc’s water glass at the table where they’ll be sitting. Before the guests arrive in the ballroom where the wedding reception takes place, Jack sneaks in and puts some of the sedative in the glass next to Marc’s name card.
After Jack puts the sedative in the water glass and makes a hasty exit from the nearly empty room, a group of young kids who look to be about 5 to 7 years old then suddenly appear and head right to the same table, where they immediately rearrange all the name cards on the table and then immediately leave. It’s the only table in a roomful of tables where these kids pull this prank. Even for an already unrealistic romantic comedy, this pivotal scene has absolutely no credibility whatsoever. “Plan de Table” had at least a more plausible way for the table name cards to be rearranged, since it was the ex-boyfriend who did it.
Of course, the rearrangement of the name cards means that Marc will not be the one who gets drugged with the sedative. In the first half of the movie, Bryan is the one who accidentally gets drugged. In the second half of the movie with the alternate storyline, Jack is the one who accidentally gets drugged.
The ending presented in the first half of the movie is actually pretty morbid, so when the movie’s “oracle” announces that viewers can see how one action can make things turn out in many different ways, you pretty much know by then how the movie will really end. Between the first and second storylines, there’s an unnecessary quick montage showing each scenario that would’ve happened if each person at Jack’s table had ingested the sedative in the drink, before getting to the scenario that Jack is the one who accidentally gets drugged.
Throughout the course of the film, there are plenty of wedding movie clichés, such as an intoxicated person making an embarrassing speech, a mishap with the wedding cake, a big fight, and a wedding guest getting unwanted attention from someone who wants to hook up with that person. And, of course, since the sedative is the catalyst for the “problems” in the movie, the person who ingested the drug becomes incoherent or falls asleep at the wrong times.
The movie also has several illogical aspects in order to set up a slapstick scenario. For example, Bryan is an actor who is Hayley’s “maid/man of honor,” and yet he’s shocked to find out on the day of the wedding that he’s expected to give a wedding speech, so he doesn’t have a speech prepared at all. And even though they are seated at the same table, Jack and Dina are mostly kept apart at the wedding in both storylines, because Jack is too busy running around trying to keeping Marc from ruining the wedding. Jack knows the secret that Marc wants to announce at the wedding, so Jack is frantic about not letting that happen.
In the movie’s first storyline, Dina also gets unwanted attention from Sidney, who’s worn a Scottish kilt and keeps complaining about how much the kilt “chafes” at his genitals. (You can bet this is used for at least one slapstick moment in the movie.) And in the alternate storyline in the second half of the film, it’s the famous Italian movie director Vitelli (played by Paolo Mazzarelli) who zooms in on Dina, which is an obstacle for a heavily drugged Jack to have some quality one-on-one time with Dina.
The biggest problem with this movie is that even in the often-unrealistic genre of romantic comedies, “Love Wedding Repeat” is filled with so many conversations and scenarios that are too phony to take. The people who end up coupling aren’t very believable together. And there are parts of the movie that are very dull. Bryan and Jack aren’t the only ones who fall asleep in this story. You might fall asleep too while watching this movie.
If you’re the kind of person who expects romantic comedies to have a big scene where a person frantically runs to catch up to someone and reveal true feelings before it’s too late, then you’ll be happy to know that “Love Wedding Repeats” delivers on that predictable trope too. It’s unfortunate that the movie’s cast, who are otherwise talented, are saddled with roles and dialogues that are obnoxious or incredibly boring and unoriginal. “Love Wedding Repeat” is a disappointing movie that certainly doesn’t need to be repeated through a remake or a sequel.
Netflix premiered “Love Wedding Repeat” on April 10, 2020.